On 6 November 1921, James Joyce wrote to his long-suffering editor Harriet Shaw Weaver. Ulysses was being prepared for publication, and the author anxiously sought her reassurance and approval:

 Since the completion of Ulysses I feel more and more tired but I have to hold on till all the proofs are revised. I am extremely irritated by all those printer’s errors. Working as I do amid piles of notes at a table in a hotel I cannot possibly do this mechanical part with my wretched eye and a half. Are these to be perpetuated in future editions? I hope not. I am glad the first proofs I sent didn’t go astray. I feared either that they had or that you were ill or had read them and disliked them as you did not write. I sent you a new batch yesterday . . .

I am very grateful for your unremitting loyalty to my troublesome self and interminable composition which is at last to be offered to a mystified world.”

You can read the full letter here.

Of course, Weaver was much more than an editor to Joyce. As Rachel Cottam writes in the Dictionary of National Biography, “From 1916 Joyce and Weaver corresponded almost daily: she commented on his manuscripts, corrected his proofs, discussed his frustrations and aspirations, and gradually became involved in every aspect of his own and his family’s well-being. Though she was aware that he spent money recklessly and sometimes drank to excess, she endeavoured to provide him with an assured family income by transferring him substantial sums of her capital.” (Weaver, who had inherited money from her family, is said to have given the author about £1.5 million during her lifetime.)

She was less enamoured with Joyce’s next project – the “Work in Progress” that eventually became Finnegans Wake. On 20 November 1926 she cautiously shared her doubts with him:

the worst of it is that without comprehensive key and glossary, such as you very kindly made out for me, the poor hapless reader loses a very great deal of your intention; flounders helplessly, is in imminent danger, in fact, of being as totally lost to view as that illfated vegetation you mentioned.”

Joyce responded with this memorable defence of his art:

One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot.”

Weaver’s opinion did not alter, and she expressed her criticisms with more candour in her letter of 4 February 1927:

Some of your work I like enormously – as I am sure you know – especially the more straightforward and character-analytical parts and the (to me) beautifully expressed ghost-parts . . . but I am made in such a way that I do not care much for the output from your Wholesale Safety Pun Factory nor for the darknesses and unintelligibilities of your deliberately-entangled language system. It seems to me you are wasting your genius. But I daresay I am wrong and in any case you will go on with what you are doing, so why thus stupidly say anything to discourage you? I hope I shall not do so again.”

According to Richard Ellman, “Joyce was now so upset that he took to his bed.” Relations between author and editor were strained ever after, though Joyce did make Weaver his literary executor in his will. Again, to quote Ellman: “Her generosity continued for the rest of Joyce’s life, and even after it, for she paid for his funeral.”

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